TriRivers Special Education Basketball League

Published 10:33 am Friday, February 19, 2016

The Windsor Dukes, coaches and mentors of the new Tri-Rivers Basketball League pose for a picture after the game on Thursday.

The Windsor Dukes, coaches and mentors of the new Tri-Rivers Basketball League pose for a picture after the game on Thursday.

The Windsor Dukes of the TriRivers Basketball League lost to the Southampton Indians on Thursday, 34-26, but having the highest score wasn’t the real goal that day or any other. Instead, just having the chance to play is the purpose of this organization.

What makes these teams different is the players have intellectual disabilities.

“This gives those students the opportunity to participate who otherwise would not be able,” Windsor High School Principal Daniel Soderholm said of the league, which is in its inaugural year.

He added that the rules are modified to fit the players’ abilities, pointing out as an example a girl in a wheelchair who would return a ball that went into the end zone when necessary.

By halftime, the Dukes were ahead 18-16. But once everyone was back on court, the Indians quickly rallied to catch up and surpass their hosts.

Neverthless, the Dukes worked fast and hard to catch up.

The idea for the local league comes from Soderholm’s past experiences as an educator in Chesterfield and Richmond, where such an organization was formed. He added that there’s also one from Prince Edward as well.

“We decided to do that as well here,” said the principal.

For this region, players also hail from Franklin High School and Park View High School in South Hill.

Working with the teammates on each side are other students such as Raheem Fulgham, who’s one of the coaches.

He said he’d been approached by the principal to help and agreed.

This is fitting, since the senior’s career goal os working with people who have intellectual disabilities.

Other Dukes serving as coaches or mentors are Tydre Barnes, Skylar Princiotta, Alyssa Funai and R.J. Funai.

“The compassion and empathy and love shown by these students in particular is fantastic,” Sodherholm said.

Amy Davis, who teaches special education at Southampton High School, is the coach for her school’s team.

She has previous experience with a similar league in Richmond.

Though obviously happy with her team’s win that morning, she also emphasized that the opportunity to play was the real triumph.

Next Thursday, Franklin and Park View are scheduled to face off in the Peggy Wilkins Gym at Franklin High School.